Language teaching in Tulsa schools in the '60s


Once upon a time, Tulsa schools taught foreign language by actually teaching it. A reader writes:

Dear Mr. Bates:

I found your October 8 essay, "How to Teach French without Actually Teaching It," funny but depressing.

I'm writing because I hope you can help me figure out how to get some information on past language instruction in Tulsa. I attended Fulton Grade School and Skelly Junior High in the sixties. We were the first class to go all the way through Skelly, and I got excellent language instruction there. I studied French and, when I moved on to Palo Alto, California, for high school, I was so far ahead of my class there that the teacher gave me an independent study.

I wondered if you knew what the Tulsa system in the sixties was called, or if you knew anything that had been written about it. We approached language in multiple ways that my child's teachers seem to find very implausible, and I'd like to be able to show them some literature on it. I seem to remember reading in the Tulsa papers that foreign languages were a bit of a showpiece in the school system.

Briefly, we did it all. From the very beginning, we spoke the language in the classroom. We practiced saying "dialogues" with one another, and wrote and practiced our own dialogues using the words we were learning. We also read simple texts from the very beginning. We took "dictation" from the teacher, writing down what she said. In addition, we went to language lab once a week. By our second year, we were writing and performing plays in French. It made the memorizing a thousand times easier because we internalized the structure of the language, its connotations, its pitch, etc.

If you know how I could find written information about the Tulsa schools' language instruction in the sixties, I'd appreciate your help very much.

Can anyone who was around back then help this reader? Drop me a line at blog at batesline dot com, and I'll pass it along to her. Thanks.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on November 2, 2003 4:22 PM.

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